New Regionalism (2002)


Note from the Editors:

Is the "new regionalism" old wine in new bottles? What is meant by "region," anyway? Why has regionally based analysis becoming more popular among academics, and why are regional-level planning and policy interventions popularly advocated by professionals these days? The first section of this issue of Critical Planning tackles some of these questions.

Regional planning ideas have been in and out of fashion for decades. In the 1930s, advocates argued that the region, not the city, was the best unit for planning. By mid-century, issues of public participation and inequality had taken center stage. More recently, interest in regions has blossomed again. This interest has been manifested by the amount of attention paid to the Portland experiment in regional government as well as to nascent regional planning processes elsewhere in the US.

New regionalism goes beyond questions specifically related to planning. In an interview with Renia Ehrenfeucht, Edward Soja, professor in the Department of Urban Planning at UCLA, argues that it provides a way of understanding connections between economic and social phenomena at different geographical scales, in the context of an ongoing de- and re-territorialization of space.

The new regionalism literature provides evidence that geography and institutions matter as much as ever, despite the information and communications revolution. Based on this and three other arguments, in "Trading in Welfare: Does Global Trade Undermine Social Policy and Planning?" Yves Bourgeois finds that the process of globalization may increase both the importance of local regional economies and the need for social policy intervention.

In "Okinawa as a Region: A Brief History, Current Economic Conditions, and Prospects," Joseph Boski asserts that an understanding of the dynamics of overlapping regions, coupled with local knowledge, can be useful in carrying out policies to improve the economic fortunes of Okinawa residents. Boski emphasizes the importance of the history of the island prefecture, which has shaped its economically marginal status as a Japanese periphery and American military outpost.

Jeremy Nelson interviews Ethan Seltzer, of the Institute for Metropolitan Studies at Portland State University. Seltzer provides a concise and useful overview of how regional thinking has evolved over the twentieth century. Regionalists like Mumford and McKaye in the 1930s saw the regional plan as a potential savior of modern society, but this view gradually gave way to one of region as pragmatic planning device.

John Provo's "Planning for Regional Economic Development in Oregon: Finding a Place for Equity Issues in Regional Governance" overviews the literature on regionalism in planning practice, focusing particularly on equity-based regionalism and on the new connections being made in theory and practice between local community development and regional economic development. Provo finds that in two parts of Oregon, a recent change in state policy has made it possible for regional planning to include equity concerns.

Based on her research on the Haaglanden region of The Netherlands, Leonie Janssen-Jansen describes the complexity of regional planning efforts and concludes that democratic legitimation is a crucial issue that cuts across all its dimensions. In "Regional Governance and Strategic Area Development: Some Dutch Experiences," Janssen-Jansen emphasizes that governance efforts must acknowledge the special role of government institutions in coordination and cooperation.
The second section of the issue contains a selection of articles on other topics ranging from housing policy to planning theory.

In "The Transfer of the Neighborhood Unit to Caracas: An Example of Foreign Influence in Venezuela," Nelliana Villoria-Siegert and Arturo Almandoz argue that European modernist architectural theory influenced a high-density adaptation of Clarence Perry's influential neighborhood unit model in Caracas; and even in low-density parts of the city, application of the model was only partially true to the original concept.

In "Deep Ecological Planning: Ecocentrism, Bioregionalism and Planning Theory," Benjamin Stabler describes the relationship between environmental ethics and planning theory and advocates for a deep ecological planning paradigm, one that treats all species equally. On his account, bioregionalists offer a realistic, attainable approach to such a major ethos transformation.

Sonia Hirt's "Postmodernism and Planning Models" tracks the sea-change in late twentieth-century planning theory. While the postmodern critique per se has only recently become part of the planning discourse, the currents of postmodern thinking have informed planning for decades. Hirt calls for a merging of a humanistic modern approach with a postmodern inclusion of previously ignored social groups and issues.

In "Bureaucracy and Housing for the Poor in India," Ashok Das argues that an ingrained caste system, overlaid with the cultural baggage of colonial occupation, has greatly influenced the evolution of that nation's administrative bureaucracy, including the state housing authority. The result is an entrenched official system that produces far more inefficiency and corruption than it does affordable housing units.

The third and final section of the journal contains two reviews of books addressing subjects relating to the new regionalism. The first is a review by Carl Grodach of Ed Soja's Postmetropolis: Studies of Cities and Regions. The second is Bill Pitkin's review of Place Matters: Metropolitics for the Twenty-First Century, a new book by Peter Dreier, John Mollenkopf, and Todd Swanstrom.

-Renia Ehrenfeucht, Dan Chatman, Kathy Kolnick and Todd Gish


Table of Contents:

The New Regionalism: A Conversation with Edward Soja (pdf)
Renia Ehrenfeucht

Trading in Welfare: Does Global Trade Undermine Social Policy and Planning?
Yves Bourgeois

Okinawa as a Region: A Brief History, Current Economic Conditions and Prospects
Joseph Boski

New Regionalism and Planning: A Conversation with Ethan Seltzer (pdf)
Jeremy Nelson

Development in Oregon: Finding a Place for Equity Issues in Regional Governance
John Provo

Regional Governance and Strategic Area Development: Some Dutch Experiences
Leonie Janssen-Jansen

Transferring the Neighborhood Unit to Caracas: Examples of Foreign Influence in Venezuela
Nelliana Villoria-Siegert and Arturo Almandoz

Deep Ecological Planning: Ecocentrism, Bioregionalism and Planning Theory
Benjamin Stabler

Postmodernism and Planning Models
Sonia Hirt

Bureaucracy and Housing for the Poor in India
Ashok Das

Book Review: Place Matters: Metropolitics for the Twenty-First Century (pdf)
Bill Pitkin

Book Review: Postmetropolis: Critical Studies of Cities and Regions (pdf)
Carl Grodach